A former president in El Salvador is set to stand trial for allegedly embezzling hundreds of millions of dollars from the state to personal accounts, which could lead to him becoming the first former president of the Central American nation to face a criminal conviction and jail time on such charges.
Elías Antonio Saca, who was president of El Salvador from 2004 to 2009, and six other members of his administration, will stand trial for allegedly embezzling $300 million from state coffers into personal accounts, La Prensa Gráfica reported.
Saca and his associates were arrested in October 2016 on corruption charges and accused of embezzlement, illicit association and money laundering.
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According to Factum, Saca passed a law shortly after taking office in 2004 that approved the “internal regulation of the use of public funds.” This allowed him to divert hundreds of millions of dollars from the state’s accounts through checks and money transfers into his own personal accounts and those of his collaborators and their companies, without leaving much evidence.
(Graphic courtesy of La Prensa Gráfica)
As InSight Crime previously reported, the Attorney General’s Office said that the law “shows that from the start of the position [the presidency of Saca] they planned the way they were going to manage the embezzlement of state funds and how they were going to create impunity.”
If convicted, Saca and the other defendants could face up to 25 years in jail. The former president has denied these allegations and will remain in detention throughout the trial, Reuters reported.
InSight Crime Analysis
The Attorney General’s Office in El Salvador has a pretty strong case against former president Saca and his alleged role in embezzling hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars into personal accounts. The start of his trial brings him one step closer to potentially becoming the first former president from the Northern Triangle nation to face criminal conviction and jail time for this kind of charges.
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The case against Saca is a stark example of the lengths corrupt politicians will go to and the criminal schemes they will use in order to launder money stolen from the state — a trend seen elsewhere in the region — to benefit themselves and their closest allies. As the evidence suggests, the fact that Saca and his co-conspirators laid out a premeditated plan through the creation of a law at the start of his presidency to steal money from the state — and cover it up — shows how organized and thought out his criminal scheme was.
While Saca is not the first former president in El Salvador to face corruption accusations, the mounting evidence against him, including witness testimony detailing meetings where it was agreed to move the state’s money into private accounts, may be enough to secure a criminal conviction and make him the first former president of El Salvador to be sentenced to jail time.